Jack has recently acquired a farm/zoo. And boy is he proud to take care of his Made in China plastic toys. I mean, his furry little friends.
This past weekend at his cousin Calla’s house, Jack discovered a “Farm Animal Play Set” my sister and her husband had bought on clearance for 3 bucks at Target. The set consists of a clear backpack filled with many familiar animals.
Why exactly the “farm” set included a mother and baby ostrich as well as a wolf, I don’t know.
Nor could I tell you why there is a random African-looking tree along with two logs. How certain things made the cut remains a mystery.
Not to mention that the “baby” animals are simply miniatures blended in from some leftover batch from Taiwan; clearly not originally intended to be in relation to the “mother” animals, which for some reason all have red eyes.
Needless to say, I named the dog with red eyes, Cujo.
And I couldn’t help but notice the adult duck is nearly the size of the adult ostrich.
One more thing, the larger sized animals were glued together; you can clearly see where the cow’s head was glued on to the rest of its body. (I have seen these exact ones sold separately at Michael’s for like 2 bucks a piece.)
Well, I shouldn’t have been surprised that Jack is completely unaware of just how “Frankensteined” his mismatched farm set is. All he knows is, he loves his animals.
Don’t all kids?
Jack has to be holding 3 of his animals at all times: in the car, in bed, during meals, even while running from me as I chase him across the house during playtime.
Yesterday when he saw that the dishwasher was empty, he grabbed the utensil caddy and carried it over to the coffee table. Then he carefully placed the mutant duck and Cujo in their own separate compartments.
He waited a few seconds and stared at the wall, as to symbolize the passing of several hours. Finally, he woke up the animals and removed them from the utensil caddy, I mean, their stalls: The plastic rooster had apparently crowed.
Kids love animals. Heck, they’re obsessed with them.
Take a look through your child’s favorite books or check out the covers of their favorite DVD’s. Humans are rare. Instead, talking animals have replaced us.
To a toddler, animals are something to be enthralled by.
Animals look funny, they have their own strange movements, they make weird distinct noises, and they’re lovable; except for the ones that are vicious and deadly; but in a child’s world, they by default are all enchanted.
(Have you noticed how many friendly lions and alligators are featured on your little boy’s shirts? I have. It’s pretty funny.)
I’m not the kind of guy to use the word “sweet” in the emotional sense, but I have to admit, it makes my heart smile to see him so earnestly trying to care for the needs of his animals.
Yes, it’s a parenting cliche. But it’s so true and therefore I must confront it:
“They grow up so fast.”
We live in the age of Instagramming. Granted, I’m not actually cool enough to have a smart phone to share a vintage photo version of what my kid just did any given moment of his waking hours.
But I see Instagrams all the time on Facebook. Some being unintentionally ironic and uncreative- like a picture of a Starbucks cup. Others, however, are photos of something a bit more relevant and important in life.
Like our kids.
And I think that’s a pretty symbolic concept. Prepare for me to get deep here.
If you’re like me, you spend the majority of your time doing the things you don’t want to, like driving to and from work, being at work, cleaning dishes, etc.
A very small percentage of my life is actually spent doing what I really want to do; which is spending time with my wife and son.
So I constantly carry my camera around in an effort to capture every warm, fuzzy moment I can. Because as I’ve written, these are the longest years and the shortest days of my life; being a parent, that is.
It’s my attempt to magnify the best parts of my life and be able to share them with everyone who cares.
Consider this: We are constantly traveling through time and space.
My best Internet research tells me that since the Earth is always spinning, we are constantly moving at 1,040 miles per hour. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that.)
Good thing for gravity.
We are forced to travel forward into time while simultaneously stuck in physical locations we don’t necessarily want to be and participating in events we’d rather not.
There is no such thing as the present. Once we think, “this is now,” it’s no longer now. It’s back then.
So anytime we can make a positive memory into one that is eternal, indestructible, and virtually omnipresent, why wouldn’t we?
So why is Instagram so cool? It automatically “retro-izes” events that just happened, dressing them up like a Dharma Initiative Polaroid in order to direct-deposit the memory into the classic “good times” folder in our brains.
That’s basically what deja vu is- when our brains mistakenly file a current memory as a classic one.
Now back to the beginning: “They grow up so fast.”
We can’t stop it. We can barely detect the tiny changes in our children that happen overnight. We want to hold on to “this version” of our kids forever.
The next best thing we have to pressing the pause button on their current cuteness is to take a picture and therefore speak a thousand words.
That is how we travel back in time to places we’d rather be.
By default, if you have a kid then you have a definite status symbol as an adult; it means, if nothing else, you are a parent who can relate to other parents. Having a kid says a lot about you without you having to say a word.
You know first-hand the cliches of parenthood: the lack of sleep, the financial worries, the stress on your marriage, the frustration of not knowing what you’re doing in general as a parent.
Kids serve as a status symbol for all those things, just as they also represent all the rewards of parenting. And I don’t just mean the sentimental, unconditional love aspects of it; which are definitely both priceless and undeniable.
Today I want to point out 3 ways that kids serve as status symbols for their parents, in more of the “what’s in it for me?” aspects:
1. Their activities. A more re-occurring issue which adds to the stress level of being a parent is the growing number of activities their kid is involved in.
Bonus points for the parent with the greatest amount of driving time in between their child’s swim lessons, soccer practice, and Mandarin Chinese language classes.
Because we all know how it works; the more running around and wearing yourself out in the name of parenting, the better of a parent you are.
2. Their cuteness. It doesn’t take two good-looking parents to make one good-looking kid. Yay for average looking parents! Gone are the days where you have to keep a dozen pictures of your kid in your wallet or posted up on your cubicle wall at work. Hello Facebook and Twitter…
3. Their material possessions. From strollers to shoes and clothes to educational toys to cell phones to cars, there are still plenty of ways to let other parents know that your kid is worth it. As Forrest Gump’s mama told him, “There’s only so much fortune a man really needs, and the rest is just for showing off.”
Good thing we have our kids to help send that message.
Recently in my post entitled, “The Positive Re-branding of Fatherhood,” I noted that dads are making a comeback and becoming more involved in their kids’ lives. Call it a trend, call it a movement; I call it a necessary revolution: Men are changing the future of society now by priding themselves in not settling for mediocre fatherhood, but instead, awesome fatherhood. And maybe even one day the term “Superdad” will actually be as familiar as “Supermom.”
In fact, I was pleasantly unsurprised to read today in another blog here on Parents.com about a recent poll showing that, compared to 50 years ago, fathers are indeed more involved in the lives of their children. Granted, these days there are less households where the dad actually lives in the same household as his kids. But for the dads who do dwell with their kids, these dads are definitely more active compared to 50 years ago.
So it’s not all in my head! Dads really are making a comeback. What a cool time to be a dad. This is what The Dadabase is all about.
Today, I want to brag on President Barack Obama. Last week he introduced a new initiative called “Strong Fathers, Strong Families,” which is a program that provides ways for fathers to spend quality time with their children, via free or discounted pricing on fun activities, such as bowling, sports games, and zoos.
In his recent essay, “Being the Father I Never Had,” he openly recognized the fact that despite the heroism of single moms who have raised a large portion of recent generations, the presence of an active father is valuable to the well-being and future of today’s children:
“And even though my sister and I were lucky enough to be raised by a wonderful mother and caring grandparents, I always felt [my father’s] absence and wondered what it would have been like if he had been a greater presence in my life. I still do. It is perhaps for this reason that fatherhood is so important to me, and why I’ve tried so hard to be there for my own children.” –President Barack Obama
For a guy like me whose active campaign and passionate mission is to positively re-brand fatherhood through this blog on Parents.com, I can’t help but feel strong admiration for our President in his public support for the “Strong Fathers, Strong Families.” I tip my hat to Mr. Obama for using his voice for an idea so necessary and positive for the good of our country.
I believe that it has become easy and normal to downplay the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. Because we as a society have learned to, in order to survive and move forward. But I don’t want our American society to simply survive; I want it to thrive. And even just the name of President Obama’s initiative itself spells it out pretty clearly: A strong father will lead and grow a strong family.
President Obama is not only taking action in sharing my same passion for parenting; but also just like I am doing, he is using his public platform to openly support active fatherhood. I get it, not every child has the option of being raised by a good man. Many children have selfish, abusive, and/or absent biological fathers; some who have left by choice while others were good men but have unfortunately passed away.
Still, children need a positive adult male role model to fill that void, whether it’s an uncle, family friend, step-dad, a pastor, or neighbor. It’s not okay that kids are growing up without good dads. Nor is it okay to deny the need or importance of a positive adult male role model in a child’s life.
Parenting is one of the few institutions where brainwashing is not only allowed, and a given, but it’s also sort of the whole point. Like a duo-dictatorship, two people (the parents) have so much influence over another human being (the child) on so many levels. Freedom of religion? Nope. Freedom of speech? Not so much. The rules that matter are enforced by the parents and accordingly, the child learns his or her moral code and adopts his human culture largely from how the parents choose to raise him or her.
Will I be a strict parent? “Strict” has such a negative connotation these days. It evokes thoughts of having rules for the sake of having rules, yielding a teenage kid that is either so nerdy that he thinks getting to stay up until 11:00 at night to watch Battlestar Gallactica is an idea of a good time, or he’s so rebellious he gets a DUI and a huge tattoo by the time he graduates high school. So I’d rather not use the word “strict”, but instead “consistent and practical”. Like my parents were to me.
I have always been very close to my parents; I knew I could talk to them about anything and they would listen, without being judgmental or condescending, yet still guiding me in the right direction. They gave me a little responsibility at a time, and when I proved I could handle it, they gave me more. I never had a curfew, nor did I need one. But had I responded differently to the responsibility I was given, I know for a fact the rules would have been stricter, as they would have needed to be.
I think it’s funny when I hear parents of young kids say, “Well my Brayden won’t eat what I cook him. He only eats chicken nuggets and pizza, and he only drinks Coke from his sippy cup.” I smile and laugh with them, shaking my head like I know how it is, when really I’m thinking, “It’s not up to your kid! It’s up to YOU! YOU’RE the parent!”
Just like I’ve heard other parents say, “I’m not going to force any religious beliefs on my kids. They need to figure out what they believe on their own.” (Which is always a clear indication that parent has no solid religious beliefs, otherwise they would pass them on to their children.) It will not be the case for my kid. He will know who Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Peter and the Apostle Paul are. He will know the importance and relevance of John 3:16. Just like my dad read to me from my kid’s Bible every night, so will I do for my son.
And when he grows up, I will have influenced who he is. Yet still, he will have his own personality and make his own decisions. Truly though, that’s how it was for all of us. Even if one or both of our parents were out of the picture, they still influenced us- negatively or positively. So I am choosing to make a conscious, solid, positive influence in his life. And I will be very deliberate in doing so.
Here’s what The Bump says about Baby Jack this week:
Baby’s energy is surging, thanks to the formation of white fat deposits beneath the skin. (Have those kicks and jabs to the ribs tipped you off yet?) Baby is also settling into sleep and waking cycles, though — as you’ve also probably noticed — they don’t necessarily coincide with your own. Also this month, all five senses are finally functional, and the brain and nervous system are going through major developments.